Eyelid Surgery

Top Left: before surgery; Top Right: one month after surgery; 
Bottom Left: two months after surgery; Bottom Right: three months after surgery

In March of 2016, I had blepharoplasty, or upper eyelid repair surgery.  You can read about it here, but I also wanted to write a more detailed post about what I experienced after the surgery in the first week, and include some follow up pictures as time goes by.  FYI, you can click on any of the pictures for a closer look.

When I was thinking about having this procedure, I couldn't find much in the way of first-person experiences online to read about - sure, there are a lot of before and after pictures, but I wanted to know what to expect, so I'm writing this in hopes of helping anyone else who might be considering having upper eyelid blepharoplasty done.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll respond, or you can email me (40somethingsjourney@gmail.com).

Since I documented the actual surgery experience in my original post, I'll pick up with what happened afterward.

I had the surgery at TOC in Austin, which is about a two-hour drive from where I live.  Prior to the surgery, I was told to bring a small ice chest with some ice packs for the drive back, as I was supposed to ice my eyes for 20 minutes every hour that day and the day following the surgery.  I brought some gel ice packs but the surgery nurse sent me home with enough ice packs that I ended up just using them during the drive.  I wore sunglasses on the drive home - I hadn't brought my purse with me since I didn't want Jeff to have to keep up with it while I was in surgery, so that meant I didn't have my own sunglasses with me; luckily the TOC has sunglasses on hand just for this scenario, so I was good.  But if you're going to have this surgery, bring sunglasses with you for afterward.
I picked up a prescription for Erythromycin eye ointment a few days before the surgery, and I don't know if it always comes this way, but I received two small tubes which worked out nicely, as I kept one by the chair where I spent most of my time during the day, and one in my bathroom, so I could use it just before going to bed.  I was instructed to use it on my incisions four times a day, plus I had to put it in my eyes before I went to sleep, which was pretty icky - I like to play Words With Friends on my iPad once I get into bed, and I couldn't see through the ointment.  I had to do that for a week.

I bought a couple of gel ice packs, and I also had some other gel packs that I'd gotten as freebies at race expos; I liked using these for ice packs instead of actual ice...they felt very comfortable and soft on my tender eyelids.  I had a total of three sets for my eyes but by the end of the long day of icing, they weren't getting as frozen in the freezer, so I'd recommend getting a few more.
Once I was home from Austin, I rested in what I call my knitting chair - it's a Poang chair from Ikea, so it's slightly reclined, plus I have a footstool with it, which works great for relaxation.  I was supposed to rest as much as possible for the first two days after surgery, and I was determined to be as compliant as I could be - after all, I didn't have this surgery only to mess up the recovery.  I set ice-reminder alarms on my phone to go off every hour on the hour and most of the time, Jeff brought me the ice packs (although toward the end of the second day, I was getting them - he was about as over ice packs as I was at that point).  I'd set the timer on my phone for 20 minutes, and then I'd ice:
The animals really enjoyed my downtime!

I was very careful to keep my hands clean whenever I had to touch my eye area, and I had a stack of clean washcloths in my bathroom, so whenever I felt like I wanted to clean my eyes, I used a fresh one.  I didn't rub them because of the stitches, but it was nice to hold a warm washcloth on my eyelids and get the ointment off, and start fresh for the next application.  The ointment melts a little with your body heat, so I felt like a greasy mess for a week.

For recovery, I was told to avoid exercise for a week; in addition, I was not supposed to bend below my waist for the first week, and that turned out to be more challenging than the no exercise rule, because I'd inadvertently start to bend down to take something out of a low cabinet before remembering.  Needless to say, my quads got a good workout anytime I needed to get down low.  Mostly I just tried to take it easy; I watched TV, napped, and I knitted a bit.  It wasn't a rough recovery at all.

I had clear dissolvable stitches in my incisions and they disappeared over about 10 days, which was interesting.  Honestly, the entire experience was fascinating - I kept a hand mirror next to my chair to help me when I applied the eye ointment, but also, changes were happening so fast that I couldn't resist checking my eyes throughout the day.  I'd been told that my eyes would swell and get red over the first couple of days, and then they would bruise, and also that everything would sink below my eyes...and that happened for real.  I started looking really terrible, and then I started looking a lot better, all within eight days.  They say proof is in the pictures, so here's how my first week looked:

Day One - several hours after the surgery:
Not too bad in terms of swelling; you can see the incision lines clearly.  I didn't have any bleeding after the surgery, although they said that some might be possible.

Day Two:
My eyelids were turning red and they were definitely getting swollen; I'd slept sitting up to help reduce the swelling but it was going to happen, regardless.

Day Three:
I felt really good, but my eyes were looking angry red.  The swelling was not only on my eyelid area and was beginning to show below my eyes.

Day Four:
Swollen, red and bruised - and I went out in public.  I met my friends for breakfast and while I wore sunglasses, they all wanted a peek at my eyes.  The swelling under my eyes is referred to as "water bags" and it was really impressive. 

 Day Five:
I was looking REALLY bad here!  Not only was the swelling huge, but my eyes were a lovely combination of red and yellow.  The bruising had dropped below my eyes along with the swelling, accentuating the water bags even more.

Day Six:
Still very swollen, but the redness is starting to go away.  I had a doctor's appointment (not related to my eyes) so I put on foundation and blush, but I still wasn't cleared to wear any eye makeup, not that I would have wanted to - my incisions weren't completely healed at that point. 

I thought I was looking better, but that afternoon, in the harsh light of day, showed otherwise:
OK, so not quite ready for my close up, then.

Day Seven:
Morning - swelling was noticeably reduced on both my eyelids and below the eyes, and the yellow bruising was fading.
Afternoon - it was hard to get a good picture of this, but suddenly I had rosy red cheeks, and I wasn't wearing any makeup!  The red bruising from my eyelids had dropped down to my cheeks.  I looked like I had a fever, except that I didn't.

One week after surgery:

Much better!  Swelling, redness and bruising were all disappearing nicely.  My incisions were mostly closed except for a little spot at the end on one eyelid.  I was allowed to discontinue using the eye ointment, but I continued to put it on twice a day for a couple more days, just to cover my bases.  Once I stopped using it, my eyelids got a little dry and flaky, and they itched slightly for about a week.  I ended up using some eye cream on them and that helped with the itching, but they were still dry for a while longer.

Two weeks after surgery:
The incision is pretty well hidden with a light covering of eye shadow, and if you didn't know me well, you'd think I looked normal.  I can tell that my eyelids are still swollen, though.

Three and a half weeks after surgery:
Wearing no eye make up because I was going in for my post-op follow up.  I had some concerns about one area near the inside corner of one eyelid; it felt like there was a little lump of something that showed, plus the last outer edge of one incision still seemed to be not quite healed compared to the rest of the incision.  My doctor said I was actually still swollen and would be until about the three month mark, and what I was seeing was the swelling on the inside corner of my eyelid; that should resolve itself soon.  The outer edge area is a tiny bit of scar tissue, and if that doesn't disappear with time, he assured me that he can take care of it if need be.

One month after surgery:
No make up.  Incisions aren't very noticeable, and I'm mostly swollen when I first wake up in the morning.  My eyelids are still a little bit on the red side, but once I put some make up on, they look good.

With make up.  I don't own any concealer, so I just swipe my foundation brush across my lids for a base and that seems to neutralize the redness.  Oh, I also realized that I only owned one color of eye shadow - you couldn't really see it, so I hadn't bothered with eye makeup much in the last decade or so.  These pictures reflect a trip to the make up counter, where I bought a palette with 12 shades!

Two months after surgery:
I forgot to take the pictures until after I'd put on makeup, but you tell that the incisions are pretty much invisible with makeup on...and they are fading nicely.  Swelling has gone down a lot; my eyes feel normal, but according to my surgeon, I still should see more reduction in the next month.

Three months after surgery:
No makeup.  Incisions are barely there; and just like Dr. Durairaj said, the swelling has gone away, as well as the tiny bit of scar tissue on the outer edge of one eye.  I am really shappy (shocked and happy) about that, as I honestly didn't believe him when he said it would go away.  He was right!
With make up.  And speaking of make up, I'm having so much fun getting to play with eye shadows and liner and actually SEEING it on my eyelids!  I feel great and I feel like I look much more alert as a result of my upper blepharoplasty.  Very, VERY happy that I had this procedure done!

Link to three month surgery update blog post here.

Here's some more before shots.  Just call me squinchy eyes!  You can see how droopy one eyelid was in the sideview shots - keep in mind, I'm wearing mascara here, which lengthens my eyelashes, and yet they're barely visible:


  1. Amazing - thanks for sharing the whole journey. You look great!

  2. I'll probably need this procedure in my future (just turned 50). It's my family genetics. I'll probably have to have it just to be able to see out of one of my eyes. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. You look fantastic. I'm about to turn 52 and I have droopy eyelids too and they're getting worse as I get older. I rarely wear eye shadow because quite frankly, it just doesn't look good. I don't have much of an eyelid. My mother's were droopy too and by the time she hit her late 60's one side actually started interfering with her eyesight. Just wondering, did your insurance cover the surgery or is it all out-of-pocket?

    1. Thank you so much! You sound so much like me before surgery; I'm really happy I had it done. My insurance covered the surgery for the upper eyelids, as my surgeon was able to provide proof that they were interfering with my vision. I had to pay my portion of the deductible and facility fee out of pocket.

  4. So happy you posted about this!!! I'll have to have this surgery at some point - my eyelids are like yours were.

    You look amazing!!

  5. You look great. Poang chair for knitting? Do you still like this? I really need to find location than what I am doing.

    1. Thank you! The Poang chair worked fine but the wood arms bothered me when I was knitting for more than an hour or so...padded arms would be better. We replaced them this year.

  6. Hi Shelley,

    I'm 57 and I've been thinking about the same surgery, can I ask you how painful was it? Was it just discomfort or outright painful?

    1. It was more discomfort than painful, and I managed my discomfort with extra-strength Tylenol. No narcotics were necessary at all...really the biggest pain was having to do the ice packs for the first 24 hours! I'm happy to answer any other questions you have - you can email me if you like. 40somethingsjourney@gmail.com


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